CLEVELAND, OHIO — Once again, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is at the top of the national news cycle. And this time, the topic is violence.
Trump canceled his Chicago rally on Friday, apparently over safety concerns from a mass of protesters who had gathered outside and inside the venue. Clashes between demonstrators and Trump supporters reportedly turned violent, and at least one Chicago police officer was wounded. It’s unclear who was responsible for the injury.
The incident sparked widespread debate over the culture of violence at Trump’s campaign events. This month alone, a black protester was sucker-punched in the face by a white Trump supporter; a female reporter was allegedly man-handled by Trump’s campaign manager; and a black woman was surrounded and shoved. Other high-profile incidents include an activist getting punched, kicked, and choked by Trump rally attendees, and a high schooler getting choked by his own hoodie.
Confronted with these incidents, Trump has defended his supporters. “Maybe he should have been roughed up,” Trump said after a black man was beat up at one of his rallies. This week, he called recent violence “very appropriate,” because, he alleged, the protesters themselves were violent.
At his rally on Saturday in Cleveland, Ohio, however, not all of his supporters agreed.
“No one deserves to be hurt,” said Melodye Possidente, who sported a “Hot Chicks For Trump” button and earrings with Trump’s face on them. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt, of course.”
CREDIT: Emily Atkin
However, Possidente — and every Trump supporter ThinkProgress spoke with — said that Trump shouldn’t be held responsible for the actions of protesters or his supporters. His comments about Muslims, Mexicans, and the Black Lives Matter movement were not inciting any violence, they said.
“These people are the ones causing a ruckus,” she said. “They are the ones who should take responsibility.”
Trump supporter Carol DiCicco agreed that Trump was not responsible for violence — but her reason was decidedly unexpected. The protests and subsequent violence, she said, have all been orchestrated and funded by liberal billionaire George Soros to bring Trump’s campaign to its knees.
“I definitely believe that they are all funded by Soros,” she said. “I believe he’s behind a lot of this, and that the young people are being paid to do it.”
While the Cleveland rally did not have any blockbuster fights or arrests, Jeff Jacobson — dressed in a colonial American outfit — told ThinkProgress he was physically struck by a woman protestor as he held up a Trump sign outside the rally. Others, however, said they observed Jacobson slapping the woman.
Either way, Jacobson said people should not be alarmed by the violence at Trump rallies. In fact, he said, they should prepared for more.
“This violence is nothing,” he told ThinkProgress. “When the big government programs run out of money, when the food stamps stop, that’s when the real violence is going to happen. You can’t blame the poor person, God bless them. But this is nothing compared to what they’ll do.”
Jacobson said he expected violence to continue at rallies, but said he wasn’t bothered by it.
“I can get hit. I’m OK with that, because the hits that are going to happen later are going to be much worse,” he said. “That violence has a fix, though, and that’s Donald Trump.”